Polymorphous light dermatosis

Last Updated: 2023-07-07

Author(s): Anzengruber F., Navarini A.

ICD11: EJ30.0

  • Bateman 1817
  • Hutchinson 1878
  • Rasch 1900
  • Hausmann and Haxthausen 1929

Sun allergy, photoreactive eczema, polymorphic light eruption (PMLE) prurigo aestivalis, summer prurigo, lupus erythematosus-like light dermatosis, eczema solare

The most common light dermatosis, which is characterised by its intense itching. The appearance is monomorphic within the type of PLD (see below: papules, vesicles, plaques, cocard-like lesions, etc.).

  • Prevalence (depending on data) up to 20%
  • Seasonal accumulation March-June (exception: during holidays in warm countries)
  • Independent of age
  • Women : men = 9:1
  • More common in Caucasians, but also possible in Africans
  • Familial clustering in at least 20%.

  • Triggered by sunlight, more precise aetiology is not known.
  • A genetic disposition probably plays a role.
  • There is an induction of proinflammatory cytokines by UVA (sometimes also UVB) radiation.
  • A delayed-type cell-mediated immunological response occurs due to previously unknown photo-induced antigens.
  • Disruption of UV-induced immunosuppression.

  • Only on sun-exposed areas, individual predilection sites are described.
  • The skin manifestations are polymorphic and can often be classified into different types.
  • Division
    • Papular type
    • Hemorrhagic type
    • Plaque type
    • Erythema exudativum multiforme type
    • Papulo-vesicular type
    • Ictus type
    • Vesiculo-vesicular type
    • Lichenoid type (described in the coloured population)
    • Special forms: Familial variant, occurring in Indians. Juvenile spring eruption (esp. ear helices, hands or nose in young men and children in the early part of the year)
  • First symptoms appear hours to days later. However, manifestation is also possible after several days (cumulative dose). There is often a habituation effect (hardening) in the course. In most cases, there is a pronounced itching.

  • Typical anamnesis
  • Time course (continuous? Relapsing? Depending on the season? Age of first manifestation? - e.g. Hidroa vacciniformia or spring eperniosis), duration of efflorescences? Use of medication? Familial accumulation?
  • Do skin changes also occur behind glass? Indication of triggering by UV-A.
  • Do they occur outdoors but not behind glass? Indication of triggering by UV-B.
  • In room light? Triggering by visible light.
  • After what duration of exposure do the efflorescences develop?
  • Light diagnostics
    • Light staircase
  • Photoprovocation
    • MED is mostly normal
    • UVA provocation more effective than UVB
    • Photopatch test
  • Biopsy
  • if necessary
  • Laboratory
    • ANAs (to look for lupus erythematosus) (plasma fluorescence scan if necessary if there is a reasonable suspicion of porphyria).

Varying patterns according to type. Cuffed, perivascular lymphohistiocytic cell infiltrates are usually seen throughout the dermis. There may also be subepidermal oedema, exocytosis and spongiosis

  • Regular UV hardening in spring (costly)
  • Sun protection, sufficient in the trigger light spectrum

  • Under light abstinence, there is independent healing without residuals.
  • Chronic-recurrent course.

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